A 38-year-old man has been charged with especially aggravated kidnapping in the disappearance of a 34-year-old Memphis teacher after DNA on two slides linked him to the woman.
However, Cleotha Abston, who was freed from jail in 2020 after spending two decades for kidnapping, has not stated where Eliza “Liza” Fletcher is, and the search for her continues, according to authorities.
Memphis Police announced in a Sunday morning tweet that Abston had been charged with exceptionally aggravated kidnapping and tampering with evidence. Police did not provide any additional information on Abston or any previous connections to Fletcher.
The arrest came about 12 hours after police announced they had found the GMC Terrain used in Fletcher’s abduction while she was jogging on the University of Memphis campus early Friday morning.
Police affidavit gives new details
An arrest affidavit also revealed new information. The affidavit states that:
Eliza Fletcher’s husband, Richard Fletcher, told the Memphis Police Department that his wife had not returned from her run by 7 a.m., and a man on a bike cycling the same route Fletcher was running discovered Eliza Fletcher’s smartphone and a pair of Champion brand slides in the street.
Police examined surveillance video from the nearby Earthquake Research and Information Center on the University of Minnesota campus. According to police, the footage shows a black GMC Terrain passing by and then waiting for Fletcher to run by.
The affidavit stated that “a male exited the black GMC Terrain, raced aggressively toward the victim, and then shoved the victim Eliza Fletcher into the passenger’s side of the car.” “There looked to be a fight throughout this kidnapping.”
According to police, the SUV was parked for almost four minutes before driving away.
After studying security films, law enforcement officials discovered that “about twenty-four minutes before the kidnapping, CCTV footage captured the identical vehicle in the neighborhood.”
The slides were sent to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation for DNA testing, which later revealed that Abston matched a previous conviction in a national DNA database.
MPD investigators began investigating Abston’s activities in the days leading up to and following Fletcher’s abduction and discovered a film of him wearing the same slides at the Malco Cordova Cinema on Thursday.
During the inquiry, MPD discovered that the Terrain was registered to a lady who will not be identified since she has not been charged with a crime.
The owner of Majesty’s Cleaning Service, where Abston worked, was questioned by police, and she confirmed he drove the Terrain and gave detectives his cellphone information. That number was used to pinpoint Abston’s whereabouts at the time of Fletcher’s kidnapping, verifying he was in the region.
The automobile was discovered by US Marshals on Saturday, parked at the place mentioned on an incident report from Thursday. Along with confirming the automobile based on the license plate, surveillance footage revealed: “noticeable damage” to the rear passenger-side taillight, which Marshals at the apartment complex could also see.
When law authorities sought to arrest Abston, who was in the Terrain at the time, he allegedly attempted to flee but was apprehended.
Another woman was interviewed, although the affidavit does not specify when or where she spoke with law enforcement. According to the woman, she saw Abston outside the home of his brother, Mario Abston. Cleotha Abston did not live there, she informed detectives, but “she spotted Cleotha Abston cleaning the interior of the GMC Terrain with floor cleaner and indicated that he was behaving abnormally.”
The woman and Abston’s brother said they observed Abston cleaning his clothing in the house sink.
Mario Abston was also arrested on drug-related charges on Sunday. He has not been charged in connection with the disappearance of Fletcher. Mario Abston is not suspected of being involved in Fletcher’s kidnapping, according to police.
Fletcher is still missing, and according to the complaint, Abston refused to furnish detectives with her location.
Police believe Fletcher was seriously injured as a result of the abduction’s ferocity “The suspect waited for, then rushed forward, the victim, pushing her into the vehicle, where she was detained and abducted, and she remains missing…
Furthermore, based on witness accounts, it is likely and obvious that these injuries left evidence, such as blood, in the vehicle that Defendant cleaned.”
According to court documents, Abston was previously convicted of aggravated kidnapping a little over 22 years ago. In that case, he was sentenced to 24 years in prison, which would expire in November 2020.
In another case, Abston kidnapped a Memphis lawyer who had also worked for the Innocence Project.
A large-scale search
Fletcher’s disappearance triggered a massive search involving Memphis Police, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, and the FBI.
Fletcher’s family issued a video statement Saturday afternoon encouraging anyone with information to call Crimestoppers.
“The family has met with the police, and we have shared all of the information we have with them.” “Most importantly, we want Liza to get home safely,” Fletcher’s uncle, Mike Keeney, said.
Fletcher, who stands 5′ 6″ tall and weighs 137 pounds, was dressed in purple shorts and a pink sports bra.
Her family is offering a $50,000 reward for information leading to her capture via Crimestoppers.
Fletcher is the granddaughter of the late Joseph Orgill III, a famous philanthropist who helped run the family-owned Memphis-based hardware supply firm Orgill Inc.